One trainee from the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment has his blood drawn during his ninth week of Basic Combat Training as part of the Armed Services Blood Program drive March 22. The ASBP makes contributions to Soldiers deployed overseas who are in need of blood transfusions. (Photo Credit: Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)

By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)March 29, 2019

One week before graduating Basic Combat Training, trainees from the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment donated a total of 160 units of blood March 22, surpassing their original goal by 10.

Blood from this drive will be sent to deployed Soldiers in need as part of the Armed Services Blood Program, held weekly at units, normally during their ninth week of Basic Combat Training.

"Soldiers donating blood know exactly where their blood is going -- to a Soldier overseas defending this country who is in need," said Capt. Nicole Jacks, a current operations officer at Fort Jackson and a liaison with ASBP, run out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Fort Gordon, Georgia. The drives represent "some of the first opportunities they have to learn and understand what giving back to their fellow Soldiers signifies."

Members of the ASBP teams travel to each company to tell them about the project and recruit volunteers.

"I decided to donate blood … because I wanted to be a Soldier that gives the opportunity for other Soldiers who are injured in combat to make sure that they come home to their Families," said Pvt. 1st Class Meghan Keller, 21, a 3-34 trainee of Huntington, West Virginia.

Last year, thousands of soon-to-be Soldiers on-post responded to the call for volunteers. Fort Jackson donated roughly 3,800 units of blood during 2018.

"The donor population from the Basic Combat Training battalions at Fort Jackson always answers the call to help care for ill and injured troops year-round, rain or shine," said Erin Longacre, ASBP Blood Donor Recruiter at Fort Gordon, Georgia. "Their support enables the Armed Services Blood Program to provide weekly shipments of lifesaving blood to troops downrange."

Demand for blood is high, but blood can't be manufactured and is perishable, so it needs to be resupplied constantly, Longacre and Jacks explained.

"Most people who go to a hospital from injuries or surgeries end up needing blood," Jacks added.
The blood draw takes roughly five to six minutes, with the entire donation process lasting less than an hour.

It's an easy, quick way to give back to the community, said Sgt. Stephannie Howell, a reservist of a Fort Jackson blood detachment to a medical support unit who provided backup assistance at the drive.

"There's always a shortage, there's always a need," Howell said. "You never know who's going to need your blood. You might need blood yourself one day."

Longacre tells Soldiers that "just a few minutes of their time and a pint of their blood can make the difference between someone coming home to their Family or not."

Pvt. Dacoda Baker, 20, a 3-34 trainee of Estacada, Oregon, said he decided to donate blood for the first time Friday "to save a life … (to) do my part for the bigger picture and the grander scheme."
Baker said he enjoyed the time he volunteered.

"It was quick, easy -- kind of fun talking to people, getting out of the basic training environment for a little bit," he said.